Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology has expressed strong displeasure over the increasing deficit of universities across the country and difficulty in running day to day affairs.
The Committee observed that Higher Education is being gravely neglected and it will have serious consequences for the country. The Committee recommended that Rs. 21 billion, in addition to the allocated Rs. 59 billion for Higher Education Commission, be released before June 2020 as a one-time payment or in piecemeal.
The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan at the Parliament House on Thursday and was attended among others by Senators Nuzhat Sadiq, Sassui Palijo, Gianchand, Syed Sabir Shah, Secretary Science and Technology and officials from HEC.
Regarding the mapping of research activities in the country, the Secretary told the Committee that there are 164 Research and Development departments in universities across the country and 67 other Research and Development institutes making it 231 in total. However, the data is still being collected and the number is subject to change.
17,547 researchers are registered with PASTECH and there are 129,000 MS and PhD scholars. The Committee appreciated the work done and called for coordinated work with Higher Education Commission.
The matter of registering patents within and outside the country was also discussed and the Committee recommended reducing the hiccups which make the process time consuming and burdensome.
While briefing the Committee about the issuance of guidelines for random drug screening tests that would enable universities to make their campuses smoke and drug-free, the Committee was told by Higher Education Commission that awareness campaigns are underway and students are encouraged to identify people who are involved in drugs to take steps for their social inclusion.
It was told that at present only drug addicts are being reached out for screening and rehabilitation. A proper policy would be needed to initiate and approve random screening of people and would need more human resources as well as testing labs.
While discussing the issue of stopping more people from becoming addicts, the Committee was told that HEC has a zero-tolerance to drugs and has directed the universities to ensure drug-free campuses and campaigns are being arranged in coordination with law enforcement agencies.
The Committee suggested conducting random drug screening, signing MoUs with NGOs, making it part of curricula, using peer group influence and to reach to the origin and first source of drug trafficking to root out the issue. It was also decided to call ANF in the next meeting to hear their views and work so far on the issue.